TURNER WRIGHT SEP 17, 2021
Texas and New Jersey regulators go after Celsius Network
“Companies dealing in cryptocurrencies are not immune from oversight,” said New Jersey’s acting attorney general Andrew Bruck.
The Texas State Securities Board has filed for a hearing with the potential to impose a cease and desist order against crypto lending firm Celsius Network for not offering securities licensed at the state or federal level, while the New Jersey Bureau of Securities has ordered the platform to stop offering and selling interest-earning cryptocurrency products.
According to a Sept. 17 filing, the Texas regulator will be holding a hearing related to allegations that Celsius Network is offering and selling securities in Texas that are not registered or permitted in addition to not registering as a dealer under the state’s Securities Act. Should the judge accept that the platform’s offerings represented unlicensed securities, Celsius Network may be subject to a cease and desist order.
On the same day, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities announced that it had issued a cease and desist order against Celsius for allegedly “funding its cryptocurrency lending operations and proprietary trading at least in part through the sale of unregistered securities in violation of the New Jersey Securities Law.” According to the state regulator, the platform raised roughly $14 billion from those sales.
“Financial companies operating in the cryptocurrency marketplace are on notice,” said New Jersey’s acting attorney general Andrew Bruck. “If you sell securities in New Jersey, you need to comply with New Jersey’s investor-protection laws. Companies dealing in cryptocurrencies are not immune from oversight.”
The hearing in Texas will be held either online or in-person on Feb. 14. Should the judge grant a cease and desist order, Celsius Network and its affiliates Celsius Network Limited, Celsius US Holding, and Celsius Lending would likely be required to stop offering crypto services in Texas without registering with the state’s securities board or the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
“We are disappointed these actions have been filed and wholeheartedly disagree with the allegations being made that Celsius has not complied with the law,” a Celsius spokesperson told Cointelegraph. “We always have, and will continue to, work with regulators in the U.S. and globally to operate in full compliance with the law.”
According to the Texas filing, Celsius held more than $24 billion in digital assets as of Sept. 3, making the company one of the largest in decentralized finance. Its holdings have grown by more than 2,300% since June 2020, when it reported $1 billion in digital assets. In Texas, Celsius Network has more than $344 million in assets under management from more than 9,000 residents and local businesses as of June 9.
Texas’ Enforcement Division of the State Securities Board notified Celsius on May 14 that it may not have been in compliance with the state’s Securities Act. In a Sept. 17 filing, it alleged that the platform’s Earn Interest-Bearing Accounts were in violation of Section 4.A of the Securities Act, saying they constituted “investment contracts, notes, or evidences of indebtedness regulated as securities.”
Related: Texas regulator allows state-chartered banks to hold Bitcoin
The allegations against Celsius are similar to those both state regulators — as well as their peer in Alabama — levied against crypto lending platform BlockFi in July. The company is scheduled to appear at a virtual hearing in Texas on Oct. 13 to discuss imposing a cease and desist order for allegedly illegally funding its crypto lending operations and proprietary trading through the sale of unregistered securities. In New Jersey, the cease and desist order against BlockFi prevented the platform from onboarding new interest account clients in the state.
Celsius users seemed to express their disappointment with regulators coming down on the lending platform, but said the move may be due to them attempting to lay down clearer rules for companies moving into the space.
“[Celsius CEO] Alex Mashinsky has time and time and time again cited that it was they who came up with the concept of paying yield on crypto and as a result have undoubtedly poured over the many ways in which they can provide for their customers,” said Redditor MaintenanceGold6992. “This to me sounds like a whole lot of Guff, most likely to make it look like States/Govt aren’t just gunning for Coinbase/BlockFi. Celsius will weather the storm.”